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Sea Turtle Inc. receives hearing loop for amphitheater

August 21, 2018

By ALANA HERNANDEZ

Staff Writer

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — How many times do you walk into a venue presentation where someone says – “I’m not going to use the microphone today because I talk really loud.”

This scenario might seem like no big deal for people who don’t wear hearing aids, but it is for the ones that do. They’re not going to be able to hear what the presenter is saying. Thankfully, people with hearing loss won’t be having that problem at this popular tourist location.

Sea Turtle Inc. announced it is installing a hearing loop in its amphitheater. It will allow guests with hearing loss to connect to Sea Turtle Inc.’s sound system with their own hearing aids during “turtle talks” presentations.

The hearing loop is a form of hearing assisted technology that will allow participants at Sea Turtle Inc. to utilize their own hearing aid to better hear programs by eliminating background noise or echo reverberation.

Assist2Hear Inc. is a company that advocates hearing loss in communities and is installing Sea Turtle Inc.’s hearing loop. Owner Erin Nichols said in a phone interview “some of the biggest issues people with hearing loss most likely experienced in Sea Turtle Inc.’s amphitheater are “wind and background noise.” These factors make it difficult for people with hearing loss to hear what the presenter is saying.

She said “a hearing loop will basically allow people with hearing loss to feel like the presenter is talking in their ear. This will “allow people with hearing loss to participate and enjoy the programs they normally would not be able to.”

“A lot of people think hearing aids on their own are enough for somebody to hear adequately, but the hearing aid is most appropriate within a 6-foot bubble around you,” Nichols said. “So, anything outside of that bubble becomes distorted and diminished by the time it gets to your ear.” This is why hearing assistance technology is needed in places like theaters, city halls, churches and other places with bad acoustics.

People who are interested in using the hearing loop need to ask their audiologist to activate their telecoil, a tiny copper spring that’s in hearing aids, to be able to use the hearing loop in the amphitheater without needing to use additional equipment like ear buds or a headset.

However, anyone who doesn’t have telecoils or doesn’t know if it’s been activated can utilize receivers that will also be available at Sea Turtle Inc.

“People with or without hearing aids can benefit from it, but people with hearing aids really benefit from it because people with hearing aids don’t have to wear additional equipment,” Nichols said. “Most of the time it’s very uncomfortable for people to put headsets over their hearing aids. So, they end up taking their hearing aid out so they can put on a receiver or any other types of technology out there that might be able to help them.”

The installation of a hearing loop on the Island raises awareness toward Valley residents with hearing loss.

This is Assist2Hear’s first installation in the Valley. However, Nichols said this technology has been “around for about 35 years and is common in other parts of the country.” Nichols said the company has done “about 250 plus installations in the central United States.”

According to the National Association of the Deaf website, “places of public accommodation must give persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from their services. They cannot provide unequal or separate benefits to persons with disabilities and they must modify their practices and policies when necessary to provide equal access to services and facilities.”

Nichols said “a lot of times venues don’t realize public assembly is required by ADA regulations to have hearing assisted technology for the public because they’re just not informed about the law.”

“Hopefully, this is one of many that we see in the Valley,” Nichols said. “Any place in the Valley where there is bad acoustics like the theater, city halls, churches or any place would be something places should be looking into.”

“We hope that with this installation, we can bring attention to that here in the Valley and hopefully more of our civic areas and tourist areas will start to really pay attention and try to meet their customer’s needs a little bit better,” she added.

The hearing loop was donated by an Island resident. Installation can loop can range from anywhere between “$6,000 to six figures” depending on the structure it’s being installed in.

“I think it’s going to be very helpful because we get more than 100,000 visitors per year and some people have different hearing abilities,” Sea Turtle Inc. assistant coordinator Kat Lillie said.

The amphitheater will be closed until Friday this week. Sea Turtle Inc. hopes the hearing loop will be ready by this weekend. Until then, the turtle talk presentations will be held in the classroom of the new Education Complex.

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